Momir’s Madness on Arena


By Byron King
I’m here today to talk about something near and dear to my heart, Momir Basic.  Currently, the format is called Momir’s Madness on Magic Arena, but I’m old and have a hard time changing to new things.  I’ve been playing the format for about a decade now between MTGO and paper magic.  Magic Arena has brought the format into the limelight with a “Standard only” twist.  You don’t need an Arena collection to play, and entry is only 500 gold.  If this is something you particularly enjoy, I’ll spend a few minutes at the end of this article discussing how to build a paper version.

A quick overview of the format:

  • Your deck is all basic lands (12 of each)
  • Once per turn, you can discard a card (a land) and pay X mana.  You get a random creature with a converted mana cost of X.
  • Your creatures are all tokens

Beyond that, it’s normal magic rules.  You rely on Momir to generate random creatures for you to battle with.

If you are familiar with Momir Basic on MTGO, there are a few changes.  You don’t build your own deck, so you can’t choose your ratio of basic lands.  You also start at 20 life instead of 24.


Basic Strategy

You will want to skip your first few land drops.  Ideally, you want to hit your 9th land drop (more on this later).  That means you start making creatures on turn 3 on the draw and 4 on the play.  You may need to modify this, depending on how aggressive and lucky your opponent is.  If your opponent curves out with great creatures on the first few turns, you are going to need to start deploying early to stabilize.  You can let them get a creature or two ahead, but you want to avoid having one bad hit lose you the game.

Momir Basic is a defensive game.  Make sure you’ve done your math before attacking.  If you don’t have a clear advantage, sit tight and hold back.  If your opponent is playing creatures before turn 3/4, you are already a favorite to win a long game (see the strategy below).

Double blocking is an important part of Momir Basic, and the main reason that the defender is highly favored.  It is fairly easy to double block smaller creatures to trade up for a more expensive attacking creature.

The basic lands you play do matter.  There is a complicated dance in the late game that starts with Zacama, Primal Calamity.  That game can’t really start unless the player with Zacama has enough red mana to activate Zacama at least three times.  That makes Mountains the most important land.  There are other creatures that can pump +1/+0 for red mana, and there are creatures that pump +1/+1 for black mana.  Tempest Djinn simply cares about the number of Islands you control.  This makes Mountain the most important land to have, followed by Swamp.  Plains and Forest have mild benefits with Zacama.  Islands are only important for Tempest Djinn.

Your creatures are all tokens.  That makes bounce as good as removal.

Most things that interact with player’s hands or graveyards are terrible, since they will only have lands.

Most activate abilities that cost mana are traps.  Unless you are managing to kill a creature, you should stick to making the maximum size creature with Momir instead of sinking mana into an ability.


Late Game Strategy

Late game strategy has gotten a lot more convoluted with the addition of Guilds of Ravnica.  Before Guilds, standard Momir was a race to Zacama, Primal Calamity.  With it, you can kill the opponent’s Zacama or start to decimate the opponent’s board.  Now, there are three different nine drops.  Zacama, Primal Calamity is the best hit.  It destroys most creatures in Momir with enough red mana.  If your opponent gets Zacama first, theirs will kill yours.  Arboretum Elemental is the worst hit, as it typically trades down in combat.  It can’t tangle with Zacama in combat, and hexproof mostly just prevents Zacama from killing it .  Molderhulk is an even worse body than Arboretum Elemental, as it does die to Zacama.  However, it guarantees you a land to hit ten mana.  That leads us to the post Zacama stage of the game.

Impervious Greatwurm is the only creature at ten mana, and it is a huge brick wall.  If one person can make these and the other cant, they would just win the game.  They completely brickwall the ground, but the lack of trample makes it hard to swing.  They also bounce off of each other if both players have one.  Molderhulk makes it unlikely that only one player will get to ten mana, since you should already be racing to nine mana.  If you miss Zacama at nine mana, you have a 50% chance to incidentally ramp to ten mana.

If both players have a wall of Impervious Greatwurms, you have to start digging around the lower CMC creatures.  Make sure you won’t die to an alpha swing from the opponent before you start looking for a solution.

Nine CMC creatures don’t offer any help.

Eight CMC creatures can get around Impervious Greatwurms, but not ZacamaVerdant Force can build up a board that Greatwurms cannot attack through.  Zetalpa, Primal Dawn is an indestructible flier that is perfect at killing the opponent through Impervious Greatwurms.  This is the best answer unless the opponent has Zacama or their own Zetalpa.

Seven CMC creatures have one great answer in Angler Turtle.  If you force the opponent to alpha strike, you should be able to block and serve back for the win.  Other than the turtle, there are some fliers available, but they all die to Zacama.  If the opponent has Greatwurms but no Zacama, you can get Chromium, the Mutable, Darigaaz Reincarnated, Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood, or Windreader Sphinx to dominate the sky.  There is also Meteor Golem that can kill Zacama.

Don’t forget that Zacama has reach!

Late Game TLDR

Lets sum that up.  If you can get Zacama, Primal Calamity before your opponent and your opponent can’t hit 10 mana, you should win.  This is the most likely situation, since people commonly make creatures too early.  When someone gets to Zacama, strategies change.

If you hit Zacama, be sure to kill an opposing Zacama immediately.  After that, try to establish Impervious Greatwurm dominance.  If that doesn’t work, try to win through the skies with seven cost creatures.  Angler Turtle at seven mana should lock up the game, since you should able to block in a way to kill on the backswing.

If your opponent hits Zacama, see if you can overrun the opponent with Impervious Greatwurms.  If that doesn’t work, go back to seven drops and hope for Meteor GolemMeteor Golem resets the Zacama race.  Angler Turtle should be able to turn things around here too.  Hexproof means that the opponent cannot kill it with Zacama.


Miscellaneous Notes

There is one creature that will kill you if you hit it.  Demonlord Belzenlok will happily exile your entire deck, and you will die on your next draw step.

Explore will always draw you a card.

There are 25 creatures in Standard that have Haste.

There are 13 creatures in Standard that have Raid.  Deadeye Rig-Hauler, Deadeye Tormenter, Ruin Raider, Storm Fleet Arsonist, Storm Fleet Pyromancer, and Storm Fleet Spy are the only ones that have a real benefit and cost more than two mana.  The most expensive ones cost five mana, so I don’t believe there is a good reason to wait to make a creature after combat after five mana.  The five mana haste creatures (Barging Sergeant, Charging Monstrosaur, and Regisaur Alpha) are probably better than the raid creatures.  The creatures lower than that shouldn’t matter much, since you shouldn’t be able to trigger Raid anyway.



Reference Guide

I wanted to write this article mostly as a reference when you are playing games of Momir.  It can be tedious to pull up a full list of creatures in standard, so I’ve got a link for you of each converted mana cost.  There are some notes with each, indicating the particularly good or bad hits.  I hope this is a handy reference for you while you are playing.


1 Drop Creatures

This is the link to a Gatherer list of 1 CMC creatures (54 total)

Notes: Skip making one drops.  Llanowar Elves isn’t worth the risk of making a one mana 1/1.  You want to save the land in your hand for later.

Best hits: Hired Poisoner (deathtouch), Llanowar Elves (ramp), Pelt Collector (scales well)

Worst Hits: Hungering Hydra (dies immediately), Old-Growth Dryads (benefits opponent)


2 Drop Creatures

This is the link to a Gatherer list of 2 CMC creatures (163 total)

Notes: Skip making two drops.  At best, you are getting a creature that taps for mana (3/163).  If you miss on one of those, your best hits are cards that recover the card you lost or making the opponent discard.  Passwall Adept and Suspicious Bookcase can help break up the late game issues in the format, but your odds of finding them are horrendous.  There are a few cards I didn’t list in the Best hits that can draw you cards (including things with Explore)

Best hits: Burglar Rat (discard), Drover of the Mighty (ramp), Druid of the Cowl (ramp), Dryad Greenseeker (ramp), Elfhame Druid (card draw), Passwall Adept (activated ability), Silvergill Adept (card draw), Suspicious Bookcase (activated ability), Timestream Navigator (activated ability)

Worst Hits: Wanted Scoundrels (benefits opponent), Worldsoul Colossus (Immediately dies)


3 Drop Creatures

This is the link to a Gatherer list of 3 CMC creatures (156 total)

Notes:  You should start playing creatures on turn three if you are on the draw.  You should still be skipping these on the play, barring an extremely aggressive start from the opponent.  There are a few cards I didn’t list in the Best hits that can draw you cards (including things with Explore). Dread Shade cares about your Swamps in play.  Tempest Djinn care about your Islands in play.

Best hits: Blossom Dryad (ramp), District Guide (card draw), Draconic Disciple (ramp),  Elvish Rejuvenator (ramp), Everdawn Champion (Indestructible), Exclusion Mage (removal), Kinjalli’s Sunwing (ability), Marwyn, the Nurturer (ramp), Ochran Assassin (ability), Ruin Raider (card draw),

Worst Hits: Charnel Troll (dies next upkeep), Enigma Drake (no power), Mirror Image (can die immediately), Phylactery Lich (probably dies immediately),


4 Drop Creatures

This is the link to a Gatherer list of 4 CMC creatures (151 total)

Notes: At this point, you should be making creatures every turn.  Make sure to reevaluate your strategy if your opponent makes you discard a card.

Best hits: Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice (raw stats), Baird, Steward of Argive (ability), Golgari Findbroker (card draw), Grand Warlord Radha (ramp), Hostage Taker (removal), Nicol Bolas, the Ravager (discard and raw stats), Nightveil Predator (removal and stats), Nullhide Ferox (raw stats), Poison-Tip Archer (removal), Ravenous Chupacabra (removal), Rowdy Crew (card draw and stats), Twilight Prophet (card draw), World Shaper (ability)

Worst Hits: Golgari Raiders (immediately dies), Skizzik (dies at end step), Traxos, Scourge of Kroog (always tapped)

Great or Terrible: Demon of Catastrophes (raw stats if it survives)

5 Drop Creatures

This is the link to a Gatherer list of 5 CMC creatures (83 total)

Notes:  The board should be getting gummed up at this point.  Try no to attack unless you have a clear advantage on the board.  Chump blockers are more important later.  Flying creatures are a higher priority, since dominance in the sky is the easiest way to win.  It is the end of the late game dance, and sometimes a couple fliers just run away with the game.

Best hits: Academy Journeymage (removal), Champion of Dusk (card draw), Demanding Dragon (ability), Doom Whisperer (raw stats), Gigantosaurus (raw stats), Lyra Dawnbringer (raw stats), Siege-Gang Commander (removal), Tatyova, Benthic Druid (card draw), Tendershoot Dryad (ability), Tripjaw Tyrant (removal), Trostani Discordant (ability), Vona, Butcher of Magan (removal)

Worst Hits: nothing awful to hit here, just creatures with mediocre stats.

6 Drop Creatures

This is the link to a Gatherer list of 6 CMC creatures (52 total)

Notes: Six mana creatures are a risk, as it is the only place where you can outright lose to your own creature.  Demonlord Benzenlok will immediately draw your entire deck if you hit it.  Other than that, most creatures at this point should be huge.  Fliers are still important here, and there are some big ones to hit.  If your opponent is hitting better stated creatures, remember that you can double block with some of your earlier drops.

At this point, Best hits are the removal spells you can find.  There are a ton of giant monsters you can hit.

Best hits: Affectionate IndirkBurning Sun’s Avatar , Dream Eater, Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire,

Worst Hits: Demonlord Benzenlok (you lose on your next draw step)


7 Drop Creatures

This is the link to a Gatherer list of 7 CMC creatures (22 total)

Notes:  You will likely wind up here at the end of the late game dance.  Meteor Golem is your best chance to wrestle control back if your opponent hits Zacama, Primal Calamity first.  Try to have a card still in your hand when you activate at seven mana so that Tishana, Voice of Thunder doesn’t immediately die.

Best hits: Angler Turtle (ability), Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood (slow removal), Meteor Golem (removal), Rampaging Brontodon (gigantic attacker)

Worst Hits: Siege Wurm is the worst you can do here.


8 Drop Creatures

This is the link to a Gatherer list of 8 CMC creatures (9 total)

Notes: This is approaching the end game.  You’ll want to hope for Zetalpa, but prepare for the Zacama battle next turn.

Best hits: Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

Worst Hits: Everything beyond Zetalpa is varying degrees of “fine”


9 Drop Creatures

This is the link to a Gatherer list of 9 CMC creatures (3 total)

Notes: If your opponent hits Zacama first, consider skipping straight to ten.  If the opponent doesn’t have three Mountains, it is safe for you to try for Zacama.  You can still hit Molderhulk and ramp to Impervious Greatwurm territory.

Best hits: Zacama, Primal Calamity

Worst Hits: anything else


10 Drop Creature

This is the Gatherer link to Impervious Greatwurm, the only 10 CMC creature.

Notes: Imperious Greatwurm is part of the late game dance in Momir.


12 Drop Creature

This is the Gatherer link to Ghalta, Primal Hunger, the only 12 CMC creature.

Notes: You’ve gone too far, go back to 10 CMC and lower creatures.  Ghalta, Primal Hunger is useless against Imperious Greatwurm.



Momir Basic in Paper

I spent about five years cultivating a Momir Basic cube in paper.  It clearly didn’t include all of the creatures in Magic, since that would have been too big to manage.  It did include about 75-100 creatures in each format.  Sorting and managing was fairly easy, and certainly less work than maintaining a traditional cube.

  • You need two decks of 60 basic lands.  The ratio is up to you, but I included 12 of each basic.  I used black sleeves for the basic lands.
  • You need a fairly large box to hold cards.  I started with a ~1200 count long box and moved on to a holiday box for more room.
  • You need creatures.  You will want to have a different color of sleeves for each converted mana cost, so you’ll wind up getting 10-12 different sleeve colors beyond the ones for the basic lands.

That’s pretty much it.  You can customize your creatures however you like.  I ended up picking a high percentage of creatures that were particularly exciting or particularly bad to keep things interesting.  If you don’t stick to standard cards, there are some pretty heinously bad creatures (instant losses) you can hit from three mana up to seven.

If you stick to standard legal cards, you probably need to include multiples of the 9+ CMC creatures.  Before Zacama was printed, standard Momir practice was to get to eight and stay there.  Eight CMC creatures had some fantastic hits, and things typically got worse after that.  Things are complicated now, so you have a few choices to make.

Feel free to message me if you are interested in this.  It was a passion of mine for years, and I am always happy to talk about it.  I actually got to play a round against Rich Hagon during GP coverage of Atlanta in 2012.  [side note: I would love a link to that footage if anyone can find it.  Legacy GP in Atlanta in 2012]


Best of luck, and my all your 9s be Zacama!

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